WHO has recommended two new drugs for COVID-19, providing yet more options for treating the disease. The extent to which these medicines will save lives depends on how widely available and affordable they will be.
The first drug, baricitinib, is strongly
recommended for patients with severe or critical COVID-19. It is part of a
class of drugs called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors that suppress the
overstimulation of the immune system. WHO recommends that it is given with
Baricitinib is an oral drug, used in the
treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. It provides an alternative to other
arthritis drugs called Interleukin-6 receptor blockers, recommended
by WHO in July 2021.
WHO has also conditionally recommended the
use of a monoclonal antibody drug, sotrovimab, for treating mild or moderate
COVID-19 in patients who are at high risk of hospitalization. This includes
patients who are older, immunocompromised, having underlying conditions like
diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, and those unvaccinated.
Sotrovimab is an alternative to
casirivimab-imdevimab, a monoclonal antibody cocktail recommended
by WHO in September 2021. Studies are ongoing on the effectiveness of
monoclonal antibodies against Omicron but early laboratory studies show that
sotrovimab retains its activity.
The panel of experts developing the
guidelines also looked at two other drugs for severe and critical COVID-19:
ruxolitinib and tofacitinib. Given their uncertain effects, WHO made a
conditional recommendation against their use.
Today’s recommendations, forming the eighth
update of WHO’s living guidelines on therapeutics
and COVID-19, are based on evidence from seven trials involving over 4,000
patients with non-severe, severe, and critical COVID-19.
WHO is in discussions
with manufacturers to secure global supply capacity and equitable and
sustainable access to the newly recommended therapeutics. The Access to
COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Therapeutics pillar has been engaging with
pharmaceutical companies to seek comprehensive access plans for low- and middle-income
countries, so that these treatments can be rapidly deployed everywhere, not
just in rich countries. The ACT-A is also looking to expand licensing scope to
make the products more affordable.
Source: World Health Organization